Friday, December 2, 2011

Field Edges

In a group of trees bordering an open field, the trees at the edge tend to lean out over the field in an attempt to increase their access to sunlight. When the trees eventually die, they fall out into the field. The tangle of branches is attractive to seed eating birds and the area soon develops into a shrubby thicket. This is fine if you desire a thicket, but it conflicts with my goal of expanding the grassland areas.

Several of my fields are separated by narrow bands of trees. One of my goals is to open up these bands to increase interaction between the various prairie areas. This fallen tree may mean a bit of clean-up work, but the hole it left is a good start toward linking the neighboring fields.

Trees that fall out into the open are fairly easy to cut up and move. I’ll have to make sure to get that done this winter. If I wait a year, everything will be overgrown and it will be a mess getting at the tree.

This would eventually rot down, but leaving it in place interferes with necessary management activities. The mower would definitely have trouble getting over the larger branches and if it rolled on over, I’d probably trip and fall. The cut sections of the tree will be positioned nearby where they can function as shelter for salamanders and other small animals.

The dead tree was supporting a large mass of vines. This additional weight probably contributed to the fall. Most of the vines were dead. It was evident that the vines once reached to the top of the tree. As the dead tree decomposed, the upper branches broke away and allowed the vines to fall back on top of the vines below. The vines would try to regrow and regain their lost altitude, but before this could happen, the next support branches would break and allow the entire mass to drop to a lower level. From the look of the tangle, this process happened at least three times. It was only when the vines caught on a more substantial side branch that they stopped falling.

There was no disturbance to the ground when the tree fell. It made a clean break at ground level. It’s unusual not to have some of the larger roots pull from the ground when a tree falls.

There’s a good opening started here. As I clean up the fallen tree I’ll also take out a few of the neighboring dead or damaged trees to make a clear path to the next field. It shouldn’t take long for the field vegetation to start moving into the gap.

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